Who was Christy Mathewson?
Christopher 'Christy' Mathewson was an American Major League Baseball right-handed pitcher, considered as one the most dominant pitchers of all time. He played 17 seasons with the New York Giants and was famous by the nicknames of Big Six, Matty, The Christian Gentleman and The Gentleman's Hurler. His career features 373 wins with a career ERA of 2.13 and a 0.97 ERA in 11 World Series starts and such impressive performances got him inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. This American sports hero of the early 20th century was one of the most talented and admired pitchers in his era. At a time when baseball players were only associated with gambling, boozing and womanizing, he stood out with his smartness, clean-cut looks and demeanour and proved to the players that there was indeed an another way to live. He instilled in the game the values of sportsmanship, moral code and integrity, something largely amiss during those days. Throughout his career, he never pitched on Sundays owing to his Christian beliefs and in return gained a lot of praise and recognition from his Christian fans. Being an excellent athlete, he even played for his college's basketball and football teams. He had a brief unsuccessful stint as a manager with the Cincinnati Reds at the end of his career
Childhood & Early Life
Christopher Mathewson was born on August 12, 1880 in Factoryville, Pennsylvania, to Gilbert B Mathewson and Minerva J Capwell. He had five younger siblings. His father was a Civil War veteran and a farmer.
He received his schooling from the Keystone Preparatory Academy and while attending college at the Bucknell University he became the class president and a member of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity.
Continue Reading Below
You May Like
In 1899, Mathewson signed a professional contract with Taunton, Massachusetts of the New England League after his freshman year. Although his pitching failed to achieve mass admiration, it caught the attention of the manager of the Portland club, John Smith.
'Phenomenal John' Smith signed him up for the Norfolk team of the Virginia-North Carolina League after Taunton went bankrupt. Mathewson had a 20-2 record at the end of the season.
Norfolk found the Philadelphia Athletics and New York Giants at their doorsteps with offers for Mathewson. Mathewson chose the Giants and they purchased his contract from Norfolk for $1,500.
In between July and September of 1900 he played in six games and went 0-3 with a 5.08 ERA and the club gave him back to Norfolk. The Cincinnati Reds grabbed the Pennsylvanian pitcher, only to pass him to the Giants in return for Amos Rusie.
Mathewson was also playing football from 1898 on a professional level with the Greensburg Athletic Association. In 1902 he played in the first National Football League while also a member of the Giants. However, he stopped playing football in order to focus on baseball.
John McGraw became the fulltime manager of New York Giants in July 1903 and turned around the fortunes of Mathewson and the Giants. The team went from a 48-88 record in 1902 to an 84-55 record the next year.
In 1903, Mathewson led the league with 267 strikeouts and this record was only broken in 1961 by Sandy Koufax.
Mathewson became the team's premier pitcher after regularly posting low ERAs and winning close to a 100 games. The Giants started rising in the rankings and went on to capture the pennant in 1904.
With 105 wins in 1905, the Giants won the pennant and faced the Philadelphia Athletics for the World Series. Mathewson pitched a 4-hit shutout in Game 1, another 4-hit shutout in Game 3 and a 6-hit shutout in Game 5 to win the series for the Giants.
Continue Reading Below
His best year was 1908 with career highs in wins (37), games (56), innings (390.2) and shutouts (11), and he went 37-11 with a 1.43 ERA. He won the pitching Triple Crown for the second time and he averaged at less than one walk per nine innings.
The year 1909 saw him register his career-best ERA of 1.14 and he led the National League with 27 wins in 1910. He helped the Giants win three consecutive NL pennants from 1911 to 1913 and lead with ERA's of 1.99 and 2.06 in 1911 and 1913 respectively.
The Giants lost the 1911 and 1913 World Series to the Philadelphia Athletics and the 1912 World Series to the Boston Red Sox. He struggled with his form for the next few years and the Giants began descending in the rankings.
He retired in 1916 as a player and managed the Reds for the entire 1917 season and the first 118 games of 1918 before heading to France to captain the Chemical Warfare Division of the US Army in the First World War.
He was accidently exposed to Mustard Gas during a chemical training exercise while in France, as a result of which he developed tuberculosis.
In 1923, Giants’ attorney Emil Fuchs formed a syndicate to buy the Boston Braves team to bring his lifetime friend, Mathewson back in the game as the team's principal owner and team president. However, Mathewson's health kept deteriorating and he gave the post to Fuchs by the end of the season.
Awards & Achievements
He was a member of the Giants’ team when they became the 'World Series' champion in 1905 and a four-time 'NL wins champion' in 1905, 1907, 1908 and 1913.
Along with winning the Triple Crown twice (1905 and 1908), he was a five-time NL ERA champion (1905, 1908, 1909, 1911 and 1913) and five-time NL strikeout champion (1903, 1904, 1905, 1907, 1908).
The Giants retired his 'NY' jersey and he was honoured posthumously for his sports achievements as one of the original five players inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936.
The Sporting News ranked him No. 7 on their 100 Greatest Baseball Players list in 1999 and ESPN ranked his 1905 World Series performance as the greatest playoff performance of all time.
Personal Life & Legacy
Christy Mathewson married Jane Stoughton in 1903. Soon the couple was blessed with a baby boy named Christopher Jr.
He compiled his Major League experiences in the book 'Pitching in a Pinch' (1912). He followed it up with other literary endeavours including the play 'The Girl and the Pennant' and children's book 'Second Base Sloan'.
He accidently got exposed to Mustard Gas at the Army's Chemical Warfare Division in France in 1918 and developed tuberculosis. After fighting the disease for years, he succumbed to it on October 7, 1925 in Saranac Lake, NY and was buried at the Lewisburg Cemetery.
His hometown of Factoryville celebrates the Saturday closest to his birthday as 'Christy Mathewson Day', and his university renamed its football stadium to 'Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium' in his honour.